A Detailed History of YLEM



YLEM: Artists Using Science and Technology was started in February, 1981, by Trudy Myrrh Reagan. She was a studio artist in Palo Alto, CA, painting under the name “Myrrh.” At an organizing meeting, she explained that many artists gain visibility and encouragement when they know each other, exhibit together, and exchange ideas.  

The name “ylem” came from a physics text. IIt was a name given by George Gamow and colleagues for the primordial stuff that expanded in the Big Bang to create the universe. Trudy Myrrh Reagan was motivated and aided by Howard Pearlmutter, whose Graphic Gatherings at Stanford had introduced her to computer graphics and its innovators. 

YLEM got access to speakers and use of facilities from Stanford professor Robert McKim, author of Experiments in Visual Thinking, and graduate student Scott Kim, author of Inversions. When Trudy Myrrh Reagan met them and and also Pearlmutter’s friends, she discovered polymaths who loved both the technical and the artistic, not seeing the division between the two. She had been searching for such colleagues for ten years. 

It was a yeasty time, when young people at universities and companies knew for certain that what people were developing there would change the world as we know it. They and the artists around them were giddy with delight. And the world did change. 


      "Ylem, a non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization, exists to connect art to the driving forces in our culture: science and technology.

      "The Florentine Renaissance artists and the Impressionists all knew each other. Ylem exists to create such a community of artists. Studio visits, informal field trips to labs and industry, parties, and discussions forge these friendships. Access to equipment for artists has often resulted.

      "The artesian pressure of talent from the group opens up opportunities to exhibit and perform in an otherwise skeptical gallery milieu.  Artists in Ylem use technology for positive purposes, and make abstract science ideas more concrete and approachable.  They believe in the power of ideas to take form and spread, like the original matter, ylem, from the Big Bang, into the universe we see today.

      "Instead of merely talking shop about particular techniques, Ylem will explore the impact of new technologies on society. Will art spread like wildfire through new media channels like the web? Only if artists train themselves to use them."  


Ylem (capitalized “YLEM” after 2000) explored the humanistic and peaceful uses to which science and technology were being put, and exposed both artists and the general public to research work at both public forums and exhibits.  

Field trips were organized to labs, such as the Holography Institute, NASA and SLAC; industries in the field of computer graphics—most now defunct; and studios of such artists as sculptors Bruce Beasley and MIlton Komisar; and prism-light artists Martha and Alex Nicoloff. It visited Mills College Music Department—an incubator for early computer music. It visited the San Francisco Garbage Transfer Station to see artists-in-residence making art from items pulled out of the trash. Its fifteenth anniversary party was at the home and holography lab of Cherry Optical. 


YLEM had a deliberately comprehensive approach: Experimental artists in all media, from digital painting to computer-mediated immersive environments, participated. Artists in traditional media using science ideas were also welcome. Situated outside academia and the commercial art world, its artists shared ideas freely and became great friends. It can’t be emphasized strongly enough that having fun together made great things possible. It was a unique group in the early days, had wide appeal, and within five years boasted an international membership. 

Several artists changed media as a result of access to friends who could help them, and knowledge of new materials. For example, YLEM President Beverly Reiser changed from designing sculptures with neon and sandblasted mirrors to interactive art, and web design as well. . Eleanor Kent went from color copier art to knitting fractal designs, and crocheting electroluminescent (EL) wire. Helen Golden left photography to embrace large-format digital painting. Roger Ferragallo, a designer and 3D artist eventually created a 22-foot-long cosmic digital painting that showed increasing detail wherever the viewer zoomed inward. 

Except for two people who took care of ongoing clerical work, and intermittent help on publications, this was an all-volunteer effort.  Louis M. Brill, Eleanor Kent, Beverly Reiser, Larry Shaw, Gary Zellerbach and founder Trudy Myrrh Reagan spent decades keeping the organization afloat and interesting. 


It was always the quality of imagination of artists using new technology that was important. One role of YLEM was to bring new developments to their attention. Its YLEM Forums and Newsletter or Journal articles, from 1981 to 2008, gave a heads-up about technical advances useful to them and impacting society as a whole. 

1981 - Personal computers:  Then, only a few computer kits and devices were available. Amateurs programmed their own. A few artists worked for computer companies developing computer graphics. YLEM Forums treated education and small computers, gave  demos of input and output (I/O) devices for art. I/O would be a recurring theme.

1982-4 - computer graphics tours in Silicon Valley.

1982 - Demos of teleconferencing. • Mathematics shown as computer graphic animations. 1983 - In those days, each frame of an animation took 30 minutes or more to compute. Each minute of film has 30 frames. An animator told of his dream of being able to compute facial expressions. • We showed infrared images of dancers, • holograms with animation. • At Stanford, we talked at Stanford with Donald Knuth about his two programs, MetaFont (forerunner to Postscript for font definitions) and TeXt (for page layout, forerunner to PageMaker). • Who? told how he projected the outline of a giant eye onto the TransAmerica Pyramid during the King Tut exhibit. using laser light projection from his friend’s apartment. (The corporation sued, won $1 in damages).

1984 - Biomimicry (then called Bionics).

1985 - Forum demo of 3D TV.  • Video synthesizer demo.• First YLEM Newsletter to be produced with new desktop publishing software on the new 128K Macintosh.

1986 - Animated electronic jewelry demo. • An YLEM Journal  article by Fred Stitt described the digitization of all media, Xandu, Dynabook; also AI (Artificial Intelligence), VR, (Virtual Reality), and Nanotech.

1987 - Forum talk about NASA’s early experiments in VR. • How Computer Tomography (CT) scans plus Computer Aided Design (CAD) processing become models for surgery.

1988 -  Demo of video capture, images output onto cloth. • "Space Bridge" Teleconference of US citizens with ones in the USSR to promote peace.

1989 - December YLEM Newsletter discussed hypermedia, hyperlinks, telepresence, robotics, VR, and expert systems for art.  • An art project faxing art to 6 countries involved several YLEM members. • Fractals and art • Demo of interactive art (Mandala Software). 1990 - Discussed avatars and collaborations, telepresence, the International Electronic Cafe. • YLEM Newsletter articles: 1/1990, 2/1990, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and putting libraries online; • 11/1990, High Definition television (HDTV). 

1991 - Forums showed a 3D computer-simulated fly-by of Mars, • discussed VR on home computers

1992 - Field trip to NASA-Ames VR lab.• MIDI music triggered by body signals. • Discussion of camera images, audio recordings that are no longer “proof” (because they can be doctored).

1992, 1993 - Forums on complexity theory and A-Life (Artificial Life: flocking behavior in groups of sculptures).

1994-5 - Forum on networked art, • YLEM and Leonardo/ISAST (International Society for Art, Science, and Technology) join an international collaboration, Jurgen Claus’ Global SolArts Festival. Solar art to be an inspiration for solar energy development.  • The internet, developed as a decentralized network for security reasons, by now had become generally available to universities, labs and some businesses. CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, debuted the World Wide Web in 1991. This made the internet very easy to use, and able to send graphic images.

1994-5 - YLEM’s web site, “Art on the Edge, www.ylem.org created.  • An YLEM Newsletter article by Fred Lakin

1995  Steve Wilson, “Email Services Lingo” in Nov. '95 declared “The Web grew 220,000% in 1993.” Forums showed art on the web.

1997 - “New Directions in Telepresence,” YLEM Newsletter theme issue in Sept., Eduardo Kac, ed.

1997 - "Nanotech,” March YLEM Newsletter theme issue.

1999 - Forum showed video on biofuel: gas from cooking oil. 199- Forum on sculptures using computer-aided solid modeling with laser deposition prototyping. 2001 - Forum on art inventions at Burning Man draws overflow crowd.

2001 - Cyberarts International X, YLEM’s 20th Anniversary Conference, featured Second Life, Adobe's Atmosphere for 3D computer Graphics; Future theme parks and immersive entertainment; and discussed nanorobots to cure disease. In attendance was Lee Felsenstein, co-founder of Berkeley's Community Memory Project in 1973.

 2002 - Forum, The Secrets of Silicon Valley, the first documentary film to note the social impact of high tech: poor health and safety conditions in companies, the need for responsible recycling,; also an example of community empowerment. • “Aesthetic Computing” (artistic forms in formal structures found in software) in YLEM Journal, 9-10/2002. • AI Software described by Dmetri Terzopoulos eliminates much work by technicians in computer animation,  Journal, 11-12/2002.

2003 - Software developed by Hirohito Shibata and Koichi Hori for complex problem solving, Journal, 7-8/2003. • “Visualizing Data Sets,” Journal  theme issue, Anna Ursyn and Edad Banissi, eds. 

2004 - Machines that not only construct themselves, but evolve, described by Dario Floreano, Journal, 11-12/2004.

2008 - Building-sized animated LED signs. 


To plan Forums, Trudy Myrrh Reagan combed science magazines for mention of science advances pioneered by local researchers and invited them to speak. For instance, in the 1990s, three prominent astronomers, George Smoot, Joel Primack and Alex Filipenkko, shared their very recent discoveries with us. Smoot’s COBE satellite detected radiation in the universe a mere 300,000 years after the Big Bang. Earlier than that, atoms hadn’t formed, and loose electrons make it impossible to “see” anything. Primack was using a big chunk of the supercomputer capacity in the country to test his model of “cold dark matter” in the early universe. He was trying to solve why  clumps of matter existed, allowing the development of galaxies. Alex Filipenkko’ measurements turned up the surprising result that the universe’s expansion appears to be speeding up. Dark Energy was formulated to explain this effect. Chris McKay, Mars researcher from NASA spoke, as did Roger Malina, about the Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer Satellite Mission, and also art in space. 

In neuropsychology, Will Gordon explained the geography of the brain. Roger Shepard at Stanford spoke on “Paradoxes of Perception” using his Escher-like drawings. Brain research of particular interest to artists, synesthesia (seeing colors when hearing or feeling things) was the subject of a Forum in 2001. 

YLEM attracted several mathematicians who did sculpture, among them Helaman Ferguson, Carlo Séquin, and Bathsheba Grossman. Ruth Asawa could be included as well, for her origami bronzes. All were represented at YLEM Forums. Math educator and publisher, Dale Seymour, spoke at its first forum in 1981, and gave one of its final studio visits in 2006. 

Other sciences

For a geology demonstration, Trudy Myrrh Reagan deformed and carved into a 10 lb. layer cake, also demonstrated fluid dynamics with paper marbling. Fluid Dynamicist Milton Van Dyke from Stanford showed his Album of Fluid Motion.   John Greenhill spoke on Bell’s Theorem in physics. 1987, Robert Langridge showed his computer models of DNA. The same year, Scott Elrod spoke of IBM’s new tunneling microscope to see the “outline” of atoms. (who?) demonstrated chemoluminescence. In 2000, a group from University of Montana spoke of doing art with bioluminescent bacteria. In 2008, painter Julie Newdoll explained her paintings about molecular biology, and Luca Cavalli-Sforza used DNA evidence to show humankind had spread out from a small area in Africa. 


New developments in art were publicized, for instance, art using networks and remote access; art outside the art world system, like Cacophony and Burning Man; art using biology, like Eduardo Kac’s bioluminescent bunny and the “Art Fusion" program at UC Davis combining studio art and science courses. 

Ken Knowlton and Robert Dewar gave a panel discussion in 1983 on “Finding the Soul in Computer Art. Humanistic art produced digitally was shown by Lucia Grossberger Morales, Mike Mosher. Artists Bruce Beasley and Helaman Ferguson showed software designed especially for them that enabled them to realize difficult ideas they had for sculptures. Beasley’s technique for casting large scale pieces in clear Lucite astounded DuPont, who said it couldn’t be done. Dancer/composer/computer artist Sylvia Pengilly showed her performance videos and demonstrated transforming her brain waves into music. Ken Goldberg showed his robotic, telepresence, interactive, online work called The Telegarden. 

Stephen Wilson, of San Francisco State University, regarded art as research, also “keeping watch on the cultural frontier.” He, Roger Malina of the journal, Leonardo, ecologist Theodosia Ferguson, Nancy Frank of ArtCom, computer artists Lucia Grossberger-Morales and Eleanor Kent, and technology writer Louis M. Brill, associated with Burning Man, helped shape YLEM’s programs. 


• The YLEM Newsletter, YLEM Calendar, YLEM Directory of Artists Using Science and Technology and YLEM Journal, helped to validate artists in these fields, undervalued as they were by the rest of the art world, as did its many exhibits.

• The Directory  was particularly useful, as it was copiously illustrated with the artists’ works.

• In 1985, David Healy did the first issue of the Newsletter using the new computer graphic design tools.

• Frequently, Louis M. Brill obtained hologram stickers for the covers of the Newsletter.  For the twentieth anniversary issue, he obtained a large lenticular, showing an art collaboration of member Dorothy Simpson Krause and her associates in 3D. Nancy Gorglione edited the 15th Annual Newsletter with a hologram she did using a new Polaroid process. Louis obtained four other hologram stickers for it. Volunteers stuck them all in.

• The Journal, edited by Loren Means,-2000-2008 had interviews with science fiction writers, conceptual artists, and experimental music composers. 


Exhibits were curated by Trudy Myrrh Reagan, Beverly Reiser,  Eleanor Kent and Barbara Lee. Its six largest exhibits:

• “CreaTech” at Tapestry in Talent, San Jose, CA, in 1983, was a computer art exhibit at the dawn of the personal computer era. 

•  “Lights On!” 1987, exhibit at Walnut Creek Art Center showed light sculptures. The exhibit traveled.

• “Artists Shedding Light on Science” was an exhibit of science related art at San Francisco State University during the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) regional meeting in 1994.

•  YLEM was invited by Leonardo/ISAST to curate an exhibition for its 30th anniversary at the 111Minna Street Gallery in 1997. 

• YLEM’s 20th anniversary exhibit, “The Impact of YLEM,” at SomArts Gallery in San Francisco, displayed 80 artists, ranging from pioneering artists of the 1960s, Ruth Asawa and Ken Knowlton,  to two just-completed computer installations by Steve Wilson and Barbara Lee.

• In 2003,  the The Blue Room Gallery’s “Interfacing Ideas” included 17 YLEM artists.

• Often, smaller exhibits were staged at Canessa Gallery in San Francisco run by member Zach Stewart. 

• In 1987 it produced Space Ballets, a dance performance by dancer Tina Ebey with digital effects by Beverly Reiser at Walnut Creek Art Center, with the "Lights On!" exhibit,  and recorded on the 1989 video, Artists Using Science and Technology.

• In 2001, Robert Gelman organized a wild multimedia musical party for YLEM’s 20th Anniversary, as well as the Cyberarts International  X Conference in San Francisco. It took place five days after 9/11. For that reason, the speaker from Brazil was prevented from attending. See "2001" under "TECHNICAL FRONTIERS," above, for the tech advances discussed.

• 2003-2009 - For six years, the Patterns Study Group, started by Trudy Myrrh Reagan and Shoshanah Dubiner, met frequently. More about it and the Patterns Resources it developed are at www.myrrh-art.com/index.html 


1984 - Computer Art, Design, Research and Entertainment (C.A.D.R.E.), Santa Clara and San Jose used the talents of 24 YLEM artists and educators as presenters, curators and essayists. Members were involved in 8 satellite exhibits.

1985 and ff. - SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group, Graphics) - “Birds of a Feather” meetings

1985-1996, Images du Futur, Montreal, Hervé Fischer and Ginette Major, organizers. 1992 show featured 12 YLEM artists, including YLEM president Beverly Reiser's Life on a Slice.

198(6?) - Small Computers in the Arts Network, (SCAN), Mike Mosher

1988 - Women’s Caucus for Art (WCA) Conference, San Francisco, Trudy Myrrh Reagan’s panel, "Women Humanizing High Technology," featured Carrie Adell, Nancy Gorglione, and Sonya Rapoport.

1988 and ff. - International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA). YLEM artists were involved from the beginning. In 1993, Roman Verostko was Director and in 1997, Shawn Decker was Director.

1990 - National Computer Graphics Assn. (NCGA), Anaheim, CA. Joan Truckenbrod was Art Chair. Fred Stitt of San Francisco Institute of Architecture and Trudy Myrrh Reagan both conducted panels.

1990 and ongoing - Burning Man, started by Larry Harvey, at a San Francisco beach, moved to the Nevada Black Rock Playa. It involved Louis M. Brill, Dale Scott (fire marshall), Tim Black, Daniel Kottke, Jim Thompson, Beverly Reiser and Mark McGothian.

1990 - Cynthia Panucci and Peter Terezakis  started Art Science Collaborations, Inc. (ASCI) in New York. 

1990-2 - Robert Gelman organized the CyberArts International conference in Pasadena, CA

1992 - Creative Math Festival, Santa Cruz, CA

1992 and ff. - Nathaniel Friedman began International Conferences on Art and Math at SUNY, Albany, NY, and elsewhere. Helaman Ferguson, Rhonda Roland Shearer and other members showed works.

1994 - 1990 - SIG MultiMedia, Beverly Reiser and Meera Blatner proposed and curated its art show. Includes 2 YLEM artists.

1996 - Eighth Annual Digital Be-In, hosted by Bob Gelman and Michael Gosney, features two YLEM artists.

1996? COMAV (Consejo Mondial des Artes Visuales) and Artists Equity international artists conference, San Francisco.  Eleanor Kent and Mexican member, Laura Elenes were among the organizers.

1998 - Carlo Séquin and he conducted an Art/Math Conference at UC Berkeley. Séquin was also an organizer of Mosaic 2000 at University of Washington in 2000.

2006, Beau Takahara was a major organizer of Zero::One electronic arts festival in San Jose held concurrently with ISEA in that city.  Pioneers Hitchiking in the Valley of Heart’s Delight  was a project created for (ISEA) by Julie Newdoll, Jim Pallas and Michael Mosher. YLEM’s 25th Anniversary Exhibit with Trudy Myrrh Reagan and Gurpran Rau was held at San Jose’s Tech Museum, concurrent with ISEA.

2007 - Wonderfest science conference- YLEM art and science exhibit for curated by Julie Newdoll. 


1995 - Magellan Four Star Award, and inclusion in SIGGRAPH 95: “Art on the Edge” YLEM web site by Beverly Reiser, Annette Louden and Gary Zellerbach.

1990- Honorable Mention, Hometown USA Video Festival, Columbus, OH, as producer of "Artists Using Science and Technology" program for cable TV .Produced by Ken Jenkins and Trudy Myrrh Reagan. 


Many of these figures could fit in several categories—what it takes to do this kind of art! Not all were members concurrently.

Artists: Yoshiyuki Abe (Japan), Larry Ackerman, Carrie Adell, Dave Archer, Walter Alter, Ruth Asawa, Bruce Beasley, Philippe Boisossonet, Joan Blades, Anna Campbell Bliss, Betina Brendel, Harriet Brisson, Leif Brush, Luz Bueno, Maggie Bullock, Sidney Cash, Lee Roy Champagne, Craig Charbonneau and Marsha Nygaard, Geoffrey Chandler, Cherry Optical (Greg Cherry and Nancy Gorglione), Doug Czor, Larry Cuba, Frank Dietrich and Zsuzsa Molnar, Eleanor Dickinson, Spot Draves, Shoshanah Dubiner, Georges Dyans, Ed Duin, Dave Durlach, George Dyans, Ruth Eckland, Laura Elenes (Mexico), Dorothy Fadiman, Diane Fenster, Roger Ferragallo, Marjorie Franklin, Frank Garvy, Ken Goldberg, Helen Golden, Nancy Gorglione and Greg Cherry, Lucia Grossberger-Morales, Bathsheba Grossman, Karen Guzak, Molly Hankwitz and David Cox (Australia), Craig Harris, Josepha Haveman, Kristina Hooper, Troy Innocent, Ken Jenkins, Eduardo Kac, Eleanor Kent, Isaac Victor Kerlow, Jerome Kirk, Ken Knowlton, Milton Komisar, Dorothy Simpson Krause, Barbara Lee, Paula Levine, Annette Louden, Richard Lowenberg, Tod Machover, Dan Mapes, Guy Marsden, Anita Margrill, Robert J. Martin, Tony Martin (light artist), Glenn McKay, Loren Means, Barbara Mehlman, Joan Michaels-Paque, Michael Mosher, Maureen Nappi, Barbara Nessim, Myrrh, Julie Newdoll, Alex and Martha Nicoloff,  Jim Pallas, Cindy Pavlinac, Ron Pellegrino, Andrea Polli,  Joan and Herbert Price, Beverly Reiser, Ken Rinaldo, Sonya Rapoport, Alan Rath, Gurpran Rau, Vernon Reed, Merry Renk, Ken Rinaldo, Evelyn Rosenberg, John Scarpa, Karin Schmimke, Lillian Schwartz,  Rhonda Roland Shearer, George K. Shortess,  Kenneth Snelson, Mary Stiegliz, Synapse (Will Cloughly and Sandra Slade), Ed Tannenbaum, Patricia Tavenner, Tamiko Thiel, Joan Truckenbrod, Anna Ursyn, Roman Verostko, Julian Voss-Andreae, Corinne Whitaker, Stephen Wilson, Austine Wood-Camarow, Nancy Worthington,  Michael Wright,  Nanette Wylde, Amy Youngs. 

Entrepreurs Barry Brilliant, a founder of the WELL (Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link), Mary Lou Bock (Williams Gallery, Princeton, NJ),  Henry Dakin,  Theodosia Ferguson,  Nancy Frank, Robert Gelman (Cyberarts I and II events), Michael Gosney (Verbum magazine), Holography Institute, Carl Machover, Craig Newmark (Craig’s List), Sherry Rabinowitz and Kit Galloway (early internet cafe, avatars), Carl Rosendahl and Glenn Entis—two of the four partners who started Pacific Data Images (now Dreamworks), Michael Strasmich (Media Magic catalog), R.U. Sirius (Mondo 2000 magazine), Gary Zellerbach.  

Designers and architects  Jaroslav Belik, Hans Dehlinger (Germany),  Pamela Greene, David Healy, C. William Henderson, Kennan Herrick, Robert Ishi, Marius E. Johnston III, Scott Kim, Aaron Marcus, Bernard DeKoven, John Edmark, Robert A. Grimm, Shab Levy, Robert McKim, James Ossi, Piero Patri, Zach Stewart, Fred Stitt (San Francisco Institute of Architecture).  

Writers  Louis M. Brill, Cynthia Goodman, Kali Grossberg, Ray Lauzanna, Michael McGuire, Linda Jacobson, Loren Means, Barbara Mehlman, Donna Meilach, Clifford Pickover, Ginny Graham Scott, Martha P. Senger, Dr. Leonard M. Shlain, Bruce Sterling, Stephanie Strickland, Betty A. Toole.  

Digital media organizers Paul Brown (Australia), Paul Hartal (Canada), (CyberMonde, Canada), Hervé Fischer and Ginnette Major (Image du Futur, Canada), Michael von Uchtrup, Cynthia Panucci (ASCI), Howard Pearlmutter (Graphics Gathering), Trudy Myrrh Reagan (YLEM), Misako Scott (SCAN), Tiffany Shlain (“Webbie” Awards), Beau Takahara (Zero::One).  

Researchers and Inventors Ken Goldberg, Michael Kan, Daniel Kottke, Fred Lakin, Roger Malina, Jean Millay, Roger Mulkey, Dr. Audrius Plioplys, Russell Reagan, Ray Pestrong, Warren Robinett,  Ellen Sandor (PHSColograms), Edwin Severinghaus, Larry Shaw, Jim Thompson, Dr. Chris Taylor, Vincent John Vincent, Tom Zimmerman. 

Musicians Sandy Cohen, Greg Jalbert, Stephen Malinowski, Sylvia Pengilly, Lynn Pocock-Williams,  

Mathematicians Stewart Dickson, Helaman Ferguson, Nathan Friedman, Carlo Séquin, Dale Seymour 


Getty Center, Los Angeles

Library of Congress

Oberlin College Library, Oberlin, OH

SFMOMA library, 150 3rd St., San Francisco

J. P. Leonard Library, San Francisco State University

UCLA Library, Los Angeles

Greenfield Library, University of the Arts, Philadelphia 


_Digital Visions_ by Cynthia Goodman (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1987)

_Art of the Electronic Age_ by Frank Popper (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1993). Includes 18 YLEM artists. YLEM mentioned on page 170: "...perhaps the most influential has been that of the Ylem artists using science and technology network in Orinda, CA, under the direction of Beverly Reiser."

_Information Arts_ by Stephen Wilson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002). YLEM mentioned on pages 528, 863.